Sunday, October 16, 2005

Thanks Bryan

Cultural commentator Bryan Appleyard doesn't always get the best of treatment in the Blogosphere. But henceforth, we won't hear a word against him. The reason of course is that he gives us a good long plug in his ST article today.

Picking up our post "The Old Chums Connection" he homes in on that egregious Luntz/Newsnight focus group:

'When Luntz showed a film of Cameron, the group loved him. Real-time charts showed their adoration soaring with every word. This is, cried Luntz, apparently close to sobbing, “the best segment I have ever tested in politics!” Cameron was launched.

There are two things wrong with this picture. First, focus groups are rubbish. I once sat in on one. I could have talked the poor fools into believing there was an elephant in the room. Second, Luntz seems to be parti pris. He went to Oxford where, at the time, Michael Gove, now a key pro-Cameron MP, was Union president, the successor to Boris Johnson, also now a Cameron man. Nick Robinson, the BBC political editor, who was among the voices talking up Cameron at the conference, was there at the same time.

Suddenly — at least in the eyes of the unofficial David Davis-supporting website — the whole Cameron thing is the most monstrous media stitch-up. It’s just another old-boy network designed to keep non-toff Davis out, right?'

Hang on, we didn't quite say that, Bryan, but...well, whatever. At least we get a plug. That's the main thing.

'Wrong. Something much more interesting is going on here.'


'The key term here is “open network” because it is now clear — to Cameron, to Blair, to everybody in the socio-political know — that the exclusive “closed networks” of old are useless.

Luntz started his report in the Carlton club. He called it “the Conservative home”, but he knows it isn’t. The old London clubs are mausoleums with bad food. Nothing happens there and nothing will. They are “closed networks” that have died.'

...Undoubtedly, Cameron has absorbed the message of weak ties, which is why the conspiracy theorists’ view of his conference “putsch” cannot be the whole truth. The number of non-toff Tory faithful that rose to acclaim him suggests he has plenty of weak connections to call on.'

You mean people liked what they saw.

Well, we agree with that. But the question is whether he can do the actual job. Because his superb media mastery- puffed up by his chums, or "open-networks"- doesn't answer that.

'There is, however, one problem of which Cameron and all other political aspirants need to be aware. People will turn to their weakly tied contacts when things are going well. But, when things go wrong, they tend to turn to those people they know best. Networks close down defensively and become more like tribes.

A crisis tomorrow — a recession would be the likeliest — would put pressure on all open networking politicians. Vague, feelgood, open network rhetoric doesn’t work so well when times are hard. People want answers; even wrong ones will do. Winston Churchill’s genius in 1940 was to give the nation answers that turned it into one vast closed network, a tribe of resistance fighters. Cameron beware, and Gordon Brown even more so. A recession could send his boys back to Blair, the devil they know best.'

You mean like turning back to Chamberlain in 1940?

A much more likely scenario is that people would turn to a tough gritty Tory leader with some real solutions to offer.

Now, who might that be?


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